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Two Sides responds to BT greenwashing

BT has claimed that the end of the Phone Book is a greener and more sustainable option

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The Phone Book started in 1880 and contained 248 personal and business names in London

Not-for-profit organisation, Two Sides UK, has criticised the recent announcement by BT that it will be bringing an end to its printed Phone Book which BT says marks a “greener future” for the publication.

BT Group revealed earlier in the year it would wrap up production of its Phone Book in March 2024. 

At the time, Faisal Mahomed, director of BT’s UK portfolio businesses, said: “This is an important move for the environment and for our customers, and contribution to BT Group’s overall modernisation and sustainability programme.”

With the last copies now arriving on doorsteps with the tagline: “Final Edition, hold on to it forever” many media publications have noted the end of the historic title, reiterating some of BT’s environmental claims.

When highlighting the issue to Two Sides UK, an organisation that tackles greenwashing and provides facts about the print and paper industries, Print Monthly spoke to managing director, Jonathan Tame.

Tame says: “BT’s announcement doesn’t once mention the significant cost they will be saving, choosing instead to make misleading statements, greenwashing, of the environmental benefits of somehow saving 72,000 trees a year.

Jonathan Tame, managing director of Two Sides 

“Trees for wood and paper products are harvested from sustainably managed forests, the trunk going to lumber and the fewer volume parts; the branches, crown of the tree, and sawmill waste being utilised in paper production. In Europe, sustainably managed forests are actually growing by about 612 million m3 every year. Not using paper does not somehow save trees.”

Two Sides runs campaigns including Love Paper and the Anti-Greenwash Campaign, the organisation recently revealed it has removed over 1,075 misleading anti-paper statements since 2010.

Tame told Print Monthly that Two Sides has engaged with BT in the past regarding a cost-saving campaign which pushed customers to paperless billing which BT eventually agreed was misleading.

“Digital searches are also not consequence-free,” adds Tame, who says: “Data centres, PCs, laptops, and phones all have an impact, as they consume power to store and receive digital information.

“The demand for raw materials such as critical and rare earth minerals is growing to meet the requirements to make electronic devices that are also difficult to recycle.”

Phone Books through the decades on the front of BT's last printed edition

In its announcement, BT acknowledged that many customers will be affected by this change and said it will still offer purchasable phone books as well as solutions to certain customers with the help of Ofcom.

Tame points out that 6.3% of adults have never used the internet and that 79% of UK consumers want the right to choose how they receive information and communications, rather than being pushed online.

In its original announcement, BT said: "It’s a move that will have a positive impact on the environment, helping us save around 6,000 tonnes of paper every year – the equivalent of 72,000 trees. It will also help us progress towards BT Group’s target to become a Net Zero business by 2030."

When Print Monthly asked BT for a response about these claims, Tom Engel, director of external communications at BT, said: “The comment wasn’t questioning the specific credentials of the print industry; it was a statement of fact that the move away from print will reduce overall environmental impact.”

Commenting on BT’s response and its announcement, Tame states: “Two Sides cannot argue with resource efficiencies, but this greenwashing by BT is extremely disappointing and we will challenge them directly where this threatens the reputation and 105,000 jobs in the UK print industry.”

If you’d like to share news or opinions with us feel free to email news@printmonthly.co.uk or join in with the conversation on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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